Elias has spent most of his life in the hospital.
On his one-month birthday, Elias saw his mother’s face for the first time since a suspected drunk driver slammed into the family as they crossed a busy Seattle neighborhood street.
The accused drunk driver, Mark Mullan, is in jail on $2.5 million bail while baby Elias and his mother Karina Schulte slowly improve at Harborview Medical Center. Grandparents Judy and Dennis Schulte died in the accident.
“Elias is now breathing on his own, without the breathing tube,” Dan Schulte writes in an update to family and friends. “He looks and acts just like a newborn should…Although his cries are a little softer and squeakier than if he were at his best, it’s clear he’s trying to jump start his recovery too.”
Schulte – father, husband and son of the victims of a March 25, 2013 accident near Eckstein Middle School in Seattle’s Wedgwood area – says his wife is doing better too.
“Karina and Elias just saw each other face-to-face for the first time since the accident. Karina clearly reacted and I think it will be a trigger point to speed up her recovery. Every mama needs to know her little ones are okay! And Elias is definitely much better these days,” he says.
Instead of a breathing tube, Karina now has a tracheotomy to help with her rehabilitation progress.
‘Wrapped in his mommy’s arms’
Dan and Karina’s story begins in Boston. Karina was visiting her sister who went to school there with Dan.
Karina spoke very little English and Dan spoke little Spanish but friends say they communicated “fluently in the language of love.”
They got married and ended up in Seattle, where Karina works at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Their son was born March 15.
Dan’s parents moved to Seattle from Indiana to be close to their first grandchild.
A 10-day-old Elias was “wrapped in his mommy’s arms” when the accident occurred. He suffered some brain damage, but has shown signs of improvement since being rushed to the hospital.
Both Karina and baby Elias were in critical condition for weeks. Now, Karina has been upgraded to stable. She has a fractured pelvis, hip and some torn ligaments in her knee.
Dan’s focus has been on the recovery of his wife and son since his parents, Judy and Dennis Schulte, were killed in the collision.
Medical and memorial funds have been set up to support the Schulte family. This fund has raised about $63,000, with donations from all around the country.
Mullan pleaded not guilty last week to five counts of vehicular homicide and assault for the deaths of the Schultes and severe injuries to Karina and Elias.
The 50-year-old had prior DUI arrests and was driving with a suspended license during the time of the crash. He was supposed to have an ignition interlock device on his car, but had not had it installed.
If convicted, he faces a sentence range of 15 to 19.5 years in prison, although prosecutors are pushing for a longer sentence.
More jail time, and banning repeat offenders from buying alcohol
Governor Jay Inslee announced a new plan to deal with drunk drivers that he calls the “most aggressive, the most effective, the most ambitious program to reduce drunk driving on our roads.”
It requires an arrest on the first offense and mandatory jail time if offenders don’t enroll in a sobriety program after a second arrest. People would be prohibited from purchasing alcohol for 10 years after a third conviction on drunken driving.
Interlock devices would also be required after someone has been charged with a DUI, rather than waiting for a possible conviction.
Schulte family and friends in Indiana thank people in the Seattle area for their prayers and support. They say if we can learn anything from the tragedy it’s that “the choices we make daily affect the people around us.”
“Every person must have accountability and a responsibility to their fellow citizens. Living in a society requires each of us to consider others and how our actions might impact their lives. Dennis and Judy were perfect role models for us all in this regard.”
By LINDA THOMAS